Retro Reviews

Carmen McRae at the Great American Music Hall (Blue Note 709)

Recorded in June 1976, Carmen McRae’s live album …At the Great American Music Hall is one of the singer’s least-heralded masterpieces. Featuring the outstanding rhythm section of Marshall Otwell, Ed Bennett and Joey Baron, plus four tracks with guest artist Dizzy Gillespie, the album finds McRae creating one memorable performance after another. In this Retro Review, Thomas Cunniffe writes that McRae benefits from the enthusiastic response of the young San Francisco audience.


Billie Holiday: “All or Nothing at All” (Verve 314 529 226)

During seven recording sessions in August 1956 and January 1957, Billie Holiday recorded three albums which represented some of the best singing of her later years. Several years ago, these three albums, All or Nothing at All, Body and Soul and Songs for Distingué Lovers were combined on a 2-CD set. To commemorate Holiday’s centennial, Thomas Cunniffe listens again to these superb albums, finding Holiday’s voice and interpretive powers at their peak.